By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech
Governor Andrew Cuomo questioned the meaning of the $1 billion in NYPD budget “cuts” outlined New York City’s recently passed fiscal year 2020-21 budget during a press conference on Wednesday.
The New York City Council voted to pass the $88.1 billion budget at 12:30 a.m. on July 1 after hours of delay and lengthy vote explanations. Out of the City Council’s 51 members, 32 voted in favor and 17 against the grim budget that along with shrinking the NYPD funds aims to fill a $9 billion deficit caused by the economic downturn during the novel coronavirus pandemic through austere cuts to departments like education, and dipping into $4 million of the city’s reserves.
A week ago, the mayor said the city would layoff 22,000 municipal workers, whose combined salaries are worth roughly $1 billion, to further help fill the deficit unless the city could come to an agreement with unions on other austerity measures.
“We are taking a billion dollars out of the NYPD budget, I don’t know what it means,” Cuomo said on Wednesday during a press conference in Manhattan. The governor was responding to a reporter’s on whether he thought the city “went too far” in slashing the funds from the police department.
“We are taking a billion dollars out of the NYPD budget, I don’t know what it means,” Governor Cuomo told reporters. “Does it mean I am less safe? Where did you take the billion dollars from? Does it mean I’m more safe? Does it have any effect on police abuse? I don’t know what it means.”
Governor Cuomo suggested that the city instead work to redesign the police department to remedy the relationship between communities and officers echoing his June executive order requiring local police agencies to develop plans to reinvent and modernize strategies.
“The police department was not formed in the Bible… the police department is paid for by the taxpayers. They decided what they want, there is no given. It’s not written in stone.”
Cuomo comments came shortly after he finished announcing that the state will create its own police force to help select cities enforce social distancing rules.
On Tuesday, de Blasio said that $400 million of NYPD’s $1 billion “cuts” would come from moving school safety officers to the Department of Education even though the department sends the NYPD $300 million a year to run the school safety program. De Blasio said that the city would reduce NYPD overtime by $350 million as well to reach the $1 billion goal.
Critics argued that the budget missed the point of what protesters are calling for, and merely moved money from one hand to another.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in a press release on Tuesday that the budget “was not a victory.” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said that the budget “didn’t go far enough” in terms of police reform.
Director of Organizing for VOCAL-NY Jawanza Williams said the organization was “appalled” by the city’s leaders “deceptive decisions,” lack of transparency and “stonewalling” in the face of national call for racial justice and police reform.
The activist group catalyzed the week-long protest at City Hall where demonstrators marched, chanted and camped out at the intersection of Chambers and Centre Streets to pressure the city slash the NYPD budget by $1 billion.
“Black and Brown communities will bear the consequences of a budget that maintains police power in New York City, and underfunds long-neglected communities that have now also been hit hard by the coronavirus,” Williams said in a statement. “Our elected leaders are to blame for that. But our movement has grown profoundly in the last weeks, and there’s no going back.”